Exam tunnel vision

I seem to have caught an ugly case of exam tunnel vision. In my mind’s eye, next week is a 400m hurdle sprint, at the end of which lies a vast, lush meadow of carefree bliss. No amount of common sense has succeeded in convincing me otherwise. 

It’s a second-year vice that I can’t seem to kick. Rushing frantically through exam week, then taking it easy for a few weeks to overindulge in social activities (because I somehow think I ‘deserve’ it), before getting ready to rush frantically again. An endless series of two-month double-rinse cycles: cram, slack off, cram. 

I wouldn’t be a university student if I weren’t prone to the occasional bout of overthinking, however. The real question is why. So far, I’ve put it down to a disproportionate stress response. A college education has turned the be-all and end-all of existence, and each failed exam jeopardises that. 

Death and taxes ought to make room for exams on the list of unavoidable things in life

Of course that’s a bit dramatic, but it isn’t too far removed from reality. A near constant stream of bleak news about the world and its economy, coupled with the universally received wisdom about the benefits of a degree, ensure that it isn’t. First-years and non-EU students also have the Damocles sword of credit thresholds to deal with. 

Yet there’s nothing easier than decrying the whole thing, and shouting ‘carpe diem’ in order to make ourselves feel better. ‘The system’ is not the enemy, and there’s nothing ‘transgressive’ in badmouthing it. A cool head and a glance around us is all we need to see that it works remarkably well, despite its imperfections. 

That’s not to say that we ought to totally submit ourselves to cultural and economic pressures though. The founders did intend the university to be a servant to the public good after all. It then comes down to us to best make use of it, in the knowledge that life moves just as happily along outside its walls. 

Death and taxes ought to make room for exams on the list of unavoidable things in life. Although exams differ in that they are a means and not an end. And after that interlude, it’s back to the tunnel with me. 


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